Walking on Water with St. Peter: Reflections to Strengthen Your Faith
Even recently, people have approached the Gospels in similar ways. When Jesus asked His 12 disciples what people were saying about who He was, some answers were Elijah, Jeremiah, and John the Baptist, but these answers were all inadequate. Stick to the Bible. When people try to minimize His identity, tell them in no uncertain terms who the real Jesus is! The Gospel speaks of the confession of Peter: You are Christ, the Son of the living God Mt , a confession which does not come from him but from our Father in heaven.
The role, the ecclesial service of Peter, is founded upon his confession of faith in Jesus, the Son of the living God, made possible by a grace granted from on high. When Jesus speaks of his Death and Resurrection, of the path of God which does not correspond to the human path of power, flesh and blood reemerge in Peter: He took Jesus aside and began to rebuke him…. This must never happen to you Mt You are a hindrance to me Mt Whenever we let our thoughts, our feelings, or the logic of human power prevail, and we do not let ourselves be taught and guided by faith, by God, we become stumbling blocks.
Faith in Christ is the light of our life as Christians and as ministers in the Church! In the second reading we heard the moving words of Saint Paul: I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith 2 Tim But what is this fight? It is not one of those fights fought with human weapons which sadly continue to cause bloodshed throughout the world; rather, it is the fight of martyrdom.
Saint Paul has but one weapon: the message of Christ and the gift of his entire life for Christ and for others. It is precisely this readiness to lay himself open, personally, to be consumed for the sake of the Gospel, to make himself all things to all people, unstintingly, that gives him credibility and builds up the Church.
The Bishop of Rome is called himself to life and to confirm his brothers and sisters in this love for Christ and for all others, without distinction, limits, or barriers. And not only the Bishop of Rome: each of you… have the same task: to let yourselves be consumed by the Gospel, to become all things to everyone. By Staff Reporter. Peter and Paul on Sunday morning in St. The reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, speaks to us of the first Christian community besieged by persecution. However, I do not wish to dwell on these atrocious, inhuman and incomprehensible persecutions, sadly still present in many parts of the world today, often under the silent gaze of all.
I would like instead to pay homage today to the courage of the Apostles and that of the first Christian community. The community of Peter and Paul teaches us that the Church at prayer is a Church on her feet, strong, moving forward! Indeed, a Christian who prays is a Christian who is protected, guarded and sustained, and above all, who is never alone. An angel who unexpectedly comes to pull us out of a difficult situation? No Christian community can go forward without being supported by persistent prayer!
Prayer is the encounter with God, with God who never lets us down; with God who is faithful to his word; with God who does not abandon his children. In prayer, believers express their faith and their trust, and God reveals his closeness, also by giving us the angels, his messengers.
God does not take his children out of the world or away from evil but he does grant them strength to prevail. How many forces in the course of history have tried, and still do, to destroy the Church, from without as well as within, but they themselves are destroyed and the Church remains alive and fruitful! Everything passes, only God remains. Indeed, kingdoms, peoples, cultures, nations, ideologies, powers have passed, but the Church, founded on Christ, notwithstanding the many storms and our many sins, remains ever faithful to the deposit of faith shown in service; for the Church does not belong to Popes, bishops, priests, nor the lay faithful; the Church in every moment belongs solely to Christ.
Only the one who lives in Christ promotes and defends the Church by holiness of life, after the example of Peter and Paul. In the name of Christ, believers have raised the dead; they have healed the sick; they have loved their persecutors; they have shown how there is no power capable of defeating the one who has the power of faith! I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. A Church or a Christian who does not give witness is sterile; like a dead person who thinks they are alive; like a dried up tree that produces no fruit; an empty well that offers no water!
The Church has overcome evil thanks to the courageous, concrete and humble witness of her children. Dear Archbishops who today receive the Pallium, it is a sign which represents the sheep that the shepherd carries on his shoulders as Christ the Good Shepherd does, and it is therefore a symbol of your pastoral mission. Today, by these Palliums, I wish to entrust you with this call to prayer, to faith and to witness.
For those most in need, may you also be angels and messengers of charity! The Church desires you to be men of faith, masters of faith, who can teach the faithful to not be frightened of the many Herods who inflict on them persecution with every kind of cross. No Herod is able to banish the light of hope, of faith, or of charity in the one who believes in Christ! The Church wants you to be men of witness. Franciscan sources , There is no witness without a coherent lifestyle! Today there is no great need for masters, but for courageous witnesses, who are convinced and convincing; witnesses who are not ashamed of the Name of Christ and of His Cross; not before the roaring lions, nor before the powers of this world.
I am pleased to emphasize this, and am always pleased to do so, in the presence of the Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, sent by my beloved brother Bartholomew I. This is not so straightforward: because the most effective and authentic witness is one that does not contradict, by behaviour and lifestyle, what is preached with the word and taught to others! Teach prayer by praying, announce the faith by believing; offer witness by living! To confess the faith means this: to acknowledge in Jesus the long-awaited Messiah, the living God, the Lord of our lives.
Today Jesus puts this crucial question to us, to each of us, and particularly to those of us who are pastors. It is the decisive question. It does not allow for a non-committal answer, because it brings into play our entire life. The question of life demands a response of life. For it counts little to know the articles of faith if we do not confess Jesus as the Lord of our lives.
Those who confess Jesus know that they are not simply to offer opinions but to offer their very lives. Those who confess their faith in Jesus do as Peter and Paul did: they follow him to the end — not just part of the way, but to the very end. They also follow the Lord along his way, not our own ways. His way is that of new life, of joy and resurrection; it is also the way that passes through the cross and persecution. Peter and Paul shed their blood for Christ, but the early community as a whole also experienced persecution, as the Book of Acts has reminded us cf.
Today too, in various parts of the world, sometimes in silence — often a complicit silence — great numbers of Christians are marginalized, vilified, discriminated against, subjected to violence and even death, not infrequently without due intervention on the part of those who could defend their sacrosanct rights. For him, to live was Christ cf. Phil , Christ crucified cf. As a faithful disciple, Paul thus followed the Master and offered his own life too. Apart from the cross, there is no Christ, but apart from the cross, there can be no Christian either.
Tolerating evil does not have to do simply with patience and resignation; it means imitating Jesus, carrying our burden, shouldering it for his sake and that of others. It means accepting the cross, pressing on in the confident knowledge that we are not alone: the crucified and risen Lord is at our side. This is why Paul — as we heard — considered himself a victor about to receive his crown cf. Out of love, he experienced trials, humiliations and suffering, which are never to be sought but always accepted. The life of an apostle, which flows from confession and becomes self-offering, is one of constant prayer.
Prayer is the water needed to nurture hope and increase fidelity. Prayer makes us feel loved and it enables us to love in turn. In the Church, it is prayer that sustains us and helps us to overcome difficulties. A Church that prays is watched over and cared for by the Lord. When we pray, we entrust our lives to him and to his loving care. Prayer is the power and strength that unite and sustain us, the remedy for the isolation and self-sufficiency that lead to spiritual death. The Spirit of life does not breathe unless we pray; without prayer, the interior prisons that hold us captive cannot be unlocked.
How urgent it is for the Church to have teachers of prayer, but even more so for us to be men and women of prayer, whose entire life is prayer! The Lord answers our prayers. He is faithful to the love we have professed for him, and he stands beside us at times of trial. He accompanied the journey of the Apostles, and he will do the same for you, dear brother Cardinals, gathered here in the charity of the Apostles who confessed their faith by the shedding of their blood.
He will remain close to you too, dear brother Archbishops who, in receiving the pallium, will be strengthened to spend your lives for the flock, imitating the Good Shepherd who bears you on his shoulders.
May the same Lord, who longs to see his flock gathered together, also bless and protect the Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, together with my dear brother Bartholomew, who has sent them here as a sign of our apostolic communion. Reflection 11 — Leadership that succeeds for Christ. What is good leadership? We see examples of it in Saints Peter and Paul and, of course, in Jesus himself. All of us who are in any kind of leadership role have been given this same responsibility.
Parents have been commissioned by Christ to shepherd their families. Teachers have been commissioned to shepherd their students. Employers have been commissioned to shepherd those who work under them. Shepherding means this: Even when we cannot evangelize with words, we are to show, through our behaviors and attitudes and our compassion, what Jesus is like.
For followers of Christ, every leadership responsibility includes shepherding those who need to be rescued, guiding them toward Jesus who is The Gate. This means that, with a lot of unconditional love from us that stubbornly refuses to be chased away, they can be shepherded closer and closer toward the forgiveness and saving power of God.
Meanwhile the Holy Spirit is working in their hearts. Even if we cannot see progress in them yet, change is coming. We cannot drag them through the gate, but we can show them the way — the way of love and mercy — and pray that they will eventually recognize their escape opportunity. This is our calling! Every human being is a neurone in earth's central nervous system, and all individual entities are in a relationship of complementarity with others. In fact, there is an inner complementarity or androgyny in the whole of creation. We are learning to read tendencies, to recognise the early signs of another, more promising, paradigm.
We create alternative scenarios of the future. The question is whether thought and real change are commensurate, and how effective in the external world an inner transformation can be proved to be. Such reasoning is really gnostic, in the sense of giving too much power to knowledge and consciousness. This is not to deny the fundamental and crucial role of developing consciousness in scientific discovery and creative development, but simply to caution against imposing upon external reality what is as yet still only in the mind.
Whereas traditionalised religiosity, with its hierarchical organization, is well-suited for the community, detraditionalized spirituality is well-suited for the individual. The rejection of tradition in the form of patriarchal, hierarchical social or ecclesial organisation implies the search for an alternative form of society, one that is clearly inspired by the modern notion of the self.
Many New Age writings argue that one can do nothing directly to change the world, but everything to change oneself; changing individual consciousness is understood to be the indirect way to change the world. The most important instrument for social change is personal example. Worldwide recognition of these personal examples will steadily lead to the transformation of the collective mind and such a transformation will be the major achievement of our time. This is clearly part of the holistic paradigm, and a re-statement of the classical philosophical question of the one and the many.
It is also linked to Jung's espousal of the theory of correspondence and his rejection of causality. Individuals are fragmentary representations of the planetary hologram; by looking within one not only knows the universe, but also changes it. But the more one looks within, the smaller the political arena becomes. Does this really fit in with the rhetoric of democratic participation in a new planetary order, or is it an unconscious and subtle disempowerment of people, which could leave them open to manipulation?
Does the current preoccupation with planetary problems ecological issues, depletion of resources, over-population, the economic gap between north and south, the huge nuclear arsenal and political instability enable or disable engagement in other, equally real, political and social questions? Some observers of New Age detect a sinister authoritarianism behind apparent indifference to politics.
Even though it would hardly be correct to suggest that quietism is universal in New Age attitudes, one of the chief criticisms of the New Age Movement is that its privatistic quest for self-fulfilment may actually work against the possibility of a sound religious culture. Three points bring this into focus:. The Western universe is seen as a divided one based on monotheism, transcendence, alterity and separateness. This is portrayed as something tragic. The response from New Age is unity through fusion: it claims to reconcile soul and body, female and male, spirit and matter, human and divine, earth and cosmos, transcendent and immanent, religion and science, differences between religions, Yin and Yang.
There is, thus, no more alterity; what is left in human terms is transpersonality. The New Age world is unproblematic: there is nothing left to achieve. But the metaphysical question of the one and the many remains unanswered, perhaps even unasked, in that there is a great deal of regret at the effects of disunity and division, but the response is a description of how things would appear in another vision.
Furthermore, it is hardly a genuine dialogue; in a context where Graeco-Roman and Judaeo-Christian influences are suspect, oriental influences are used precisely because they are alternatives to Western culture. Traditional science and medicine are felt to be inferior to holistic approaches, as are patriarchal and particular structures in politics and religion.
All of these will be obstacles to the coming of the Age of Aquarius; once again, it is clear that what is implied when people opt for New Age alternatives is a complete break with the tradition that formed them. Is this as mature and liberated as it is often thought or presumed to be? New Age echoes society's deep, ineradicable yearning for an integral religious culture, and for something more generic and enlightened than what politicians generally offer, but it is not clear whether the benefits of a vision based on the ever-expanding self are for individuals or for societies.
The ideas have to do with the workplace as a 'learning environment', 'bringing life back to work', 'humanizing work', 'fulfilling the manager', 'people come first' or 'unlocking potential'. Christianity always seeks to measure human endeavours by their openness to the Creator and to all other creatures, a respect based firmly on love. Whatever questions and criticisms it may attract, New Age is an attempt by people who experience the world as harsh and heartless to bring warmth to that world. As a reaction to modernity, it operates more often than not on the level of feelings, instincts and emotions.
Anxiety about an apocalyptic future of economic instability, political uncertainty and climatic change plays a large part in causing people to look for an alternative, resolutely optimistic relationship to the cosmos. There is a search for wholeness and happiness, often on an explicitly spiritual level. But it is significant that New Age has enjoyed enormous success in an era which can be characterised by the almost universal exaltation of diversity.
Normality is presented as a morally loaded concept, linked necessarily with absolute norms. For a growing number of people, absolute beliefs or norms indicate nothing but an inability to tolerate other people's views and convictions. In this atmosphere alternative life-styles and theories have really taken off: it is not only acceptable but positively good to be diverse.
It is essential to bear in mind that people are involved with New Age in very different ways and on many levels. This fits perfectly into the patterns of consumption in societies where amusement and leisure play such an important part. New Age has been seen, in some cultures at least, as the label for a product created by the application of marketing principles to a religious phenomenon. Like many other things in contemporary economics, New Age is a global phenomenon held together and fed with information by the mass media.
Like the cybercommunities created by the Internet, it is a domain where relationships between people can be either very impersonal or interpersonal in only a very selective sense. New Age has become immensely popular as a loose set of beliefs, therapies and practices, which are often selected and combined at will, irrespective of the incompatibilities and inconsistencies this may imply. And that is precisely why it is important to discover and recognise the fundamental characteristics of New Age ideas.
It is worth saying a brief word about concerted promotion of New Age as an ideology, but this is a very complex issue. Some groups have reacted to New Age with sweeping accusations about conspiracies, but the answer would generally be that we are witnessing a spontaneous cultural change whose course is fairly determined by influences beyond human control. However, it is enough to point out that New Age shares with a number of internationally influential groups the goal of superseding or transcending particular religions in order to create space for a universal religion which could unite humanity.
Closely related to this is a very concerted effort on the part of many institutions to invent a Global Ethic, an ethical framework which would reflect the global nature of contemporary culture, economics and politics. Further, the politicisation of ecological questions certainly colours the whole question of the Gaia hypothesis or worship of mother earth. New Age as spirituality. But what really is new is that New Age is a conscious search for an alternative to Western culture and its Judaeo-Christian religious roots. People discover their profound connectedness with the sacred universal force or energy which is the nucleus of all life.
When they have made this discovery, men and women can set out on a path to perfection, which will enable them to sort out their personal lives and their relationship to the world, and to take their place in the universal process of becoming and in the New Genesis of a world in constant evolution. The result is a cosmic mysticism 51 based on people's awareness of a universe burgeoning with dynamic energies.
This spirituality consists of two distinct elements, one metaphysical, the other psychological.
When Faith Falters
The metaphysical component comes from New Age's esoteric and theosophical roots, and is basically a new form of gnosis. It is evident when the children of Aquarius search for the Transcendent Unity of religions. They tend to pick out of the historical religions only the esoteric nucleus, whose guardians they claim to be. They somehow deny history and will not accept that spirituality can be rooted in time or in any institution.
The psychological component of this kind of spirituality comes from the encounter between esoteric culture and psychology cf. New Age thus becomes an experience of personal psycho- spiritual transformation, seen as analogous to religious experience. For some people this transformation takes the form of a deep mystical experience, after a personal crisis or a lengthy spiritual search.
For others it comes from the use of meditation or some sort of therapy, or from paranormal experiences which alter states of consciousness and provide insight into the unity of reality. Several authors see New Age spirituality as a kind of spiritual narcissism or pseudo-mysticism. It is interesting to note that this criticism was put forward even by an important exponent of New Age, David Spangler, who, in his later works, distanced himself from the more esoteric aspects of this current of thought.
The principal characteristic of this level is attachment to a private world of ego-fulfilment and a consequent though not always apparent withdrawal from the world. The commercial aspect of many products and therapies which bear the New Age label is brought out by David Toolan, an American Jesuit who spent several years in the New Age milieu. He observes that new-agers have discovered the inner life and are fascinated by the prospect of being responsible for the world, but that they are also easily overcome by a tendency to individualism and to viewing everything as an object of consumption.
Walking on Water with St. Peter: Reflections to Strengthen Your Faith
In this sense, while it is not Christian, New Age spirituality is not Buddhist either, inasmuch as it does not involve self-denial. The dream of mystical union seems to lead, in practice, to a merely virtual union, which, in the end, leaves people more alone and unsatisfied. In the early days of Christianity, believers in Jesus Christ were forced to face up to the gnostic religions.
They did not ignore them, but took the challenge positively and applied the terms used of cosmic deities to Christ himself.
When Faith Falters - Catholic Daily Reflections
The clearest example of this is in the famous hymn to Christ in Saint Paul's letter to the Christians at Colossae:. Before anything was created, he existed, and he holds all things in unity. Now the Church is his body, he is its head. For these early Christians, there was no new cosmic age to come; what they were celebrating with this hymn was the Fulfilment of all things which had begun in Christ. Eternity entered into time: what 'fulfilment' could be greater than this? What other 'fulfilment' would be possible? For Christians, the real cosmic Christ is the one who is present actively in the various members of his body, which is the Church.
They do not look to impersonal cosmic powers, but to the loving care of a personal God; for them cosmic bio-centrism has to be transposed into a set of social relationships in the Church ; and they are not locked into a cyclical pattern of cosmic events, but focus on the historical Jesus, in particular on his crucifixion and resurrection. We find in the Letter to the Colossians and in the New Testament a doctrine of God different from that implicit in New Age thought: the Christian conception of God is one of a Trinity of Persons who has created the human race out of a desire to share the communion of Trinitarian life with creaturely persons.
Properly understood, this means that authentic spirituality is not so much our search for God but God 's search for us. Another, completely different, view of the cosmic significance of Christ has become current in New Age circles. The divine pattern of connectivity was made flesh and set up its tent among us John The Cosmic Christ The Cosmic Christ is local and historical, indeed intimate to human history.
For New Age the Cosmic Christ is seen as a pattern which can be repeated in many people, places and times; it is the bearer of an enormous paradigm shift; it is ultimately a potential within us. According to Christian belief, Jesus Christ is not a pattern, but a divine person whose human-divine figure reveals the mystery of the Father's love for every person throughout history Jn ; he lives in us because he shares his life with us, but it is neither imposed nor automatic.
Christian mysticism and New Age mysticism. For Christians, the spiritual life is a relationship with God which gradually through his grace becomes deeper, and in the process also sheds light on our relationship with our fellow men and women, and with the universe. Spirituality in New Age terms means experiencing states of consciousness dominated by a sense of harmony and fusion with the Whole. This fundamental distinction is evident at all levels of comparison between Christian mysticism and New Age mysticism. The New Age way of purification is based on awareness of unease or alienation, which is to be overcome by immersion into the Whole.
In order to be converted, a person needs to make use of techniques which lead to the experience of illumination. This transforms a person's consciousness and opens him or her to contact with the divinity, which is understood as the deepest essence of reality. The techniques and methods offered in this immanentist religious system, which has no concept of God as person, proceed 'from below'. Although they involve a descent into the depths of one's own heart or soul, they constitute an essentially human enterprise on the part of a person who seeks to rise towards divinity by his or her own efforts.
Not everyone has access to these techniques, whose benefits are restricted to a privileged spiritual 'aristocracy'. There are spiritual techniques which it is useful to learn, but God is able to by-pass them or do without them. That would contradict the spirit of childhood called for by the Gospel.
For Christians, conversion is turning back to the Father, through the Son, in docility to the power of the Holy Spirit. All meditation techniques need to be purged of presumption and pretentiousness. Here is a key point of contrast between New Age and Christianity. Our problem, in a New Age perspective, is our inability to recognise our own divinity, an inability which can be overcome with the help of guidance and the use of a whole variety of techniques for unlocking our hidden divine potential. The fundamental idea is that 'God' is deep within ourselves. We are gods, and we discover the unlimited power within us by peeling off layers of inauthenticity.
Here theosis, the Christian understanding of divinisation, comes about not through our own efforts alone, but with the assistance of God's grace working in and through us. It inevitably involves an initial awareness of incompleteness and even sinfulness, in no way an exaltation of the self. Furthermore, it unfolds as an introduction into the life of the Trinity, a perfect case of distinction at the heart of unity; it is synergy rather than fusion.
This all comes about as the result of a personal encounter, an offer of a new kind of life. Life in Christ is not something so personal and private that it is restricted to the realm of consciousness. Nor is it merely a new level of awareness.
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It involves being transformed in our soul and in our body by participation in the sacramental life of the Church. The gnostic nature of this movement calls us to judge it in its entirety. From the point of view of Christian faith, it is not possible to isolate some elements of New Age religiosity as acceptable to Christians, while rejecting others. In a cultural environment, marked by religious relativism, it is necessary to signal a warning against the attempt to place New Age religiosity on the same level as Christian faith, making the difference between faith and belief seem relative, thus creating greater confusion for the unwary.
In this regard, it is useful to remember the exhortation of St. Some practices are incorrectly labeled as New Age simply as a marketing strategy to make them sell better, but are not truly associated with its worldview. This only adds to the confusion. It is therefore necessary to accurately identify those elements which belong to the New Age movement, and which cannot be accepted by those who are faithful to Christ and his Church. The following questions may be the easiest key to evaluating some of the central elements of New Age thought and practice from a Christian standpoint.
Some of these questions applied to people and ideas not explicitly labelled New Age would reveal further unnamed or unacknowledged links with the whole New Age atmosphere. The New Age concept of God is rather diffuse, whereas the Christian concept is a very clear one. The New Age god is an impersonal energy, really a particular extension or component of the cosmos; god in this sense is the life-force or soul of the world. God is no longer to be sought beyond the world, but deep within myself. This is very different from the Christian understanding of God as the maker of heaven and earth and the source of all personal life.
God is in himself personal, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, who created the universe in order to share the communion of his life with creaturely persons. Jesus Christ is often presented in New Age literature as one among many wise men, or initiates, or avatars, whereas in Christian tradition He is the Son of God. Here are some common points in New Age approaches:. Other revelations about Jesus, made available by entities, spirit guides and ascended masters, or even through the Akasha Chronicles, are basic for New Age christology;.
Isolated individual personalities would be pathological in terms of New Age in particular transpersonal psychology. New Age is thinking based on totalitarian unity and that is why it is a danger The Christian approach grows out of the Scriptural teachings about human nature; men and women are created in God's image and likeness Gen 1. The human person is a mystery fully revealed only in Jesus Christ cf. GS 22 ,and in fact becomes authentically human properly in his relationship with Christ through the gift of the Spirit. The key is to discover by what or by whom we believe we are saved.
Do we save ourselves by our own actions, as is often the case in New Age explanations, or are we saved by God's love? Key words are self-fulfilment and self-realisation , self-redemption. New Age is essentially Pelagian in its understanding of about human nature. For Christians, salvation depends on a participation in the passion, death and resurrection of Christ, and on a direct personal relationship with God rather than on any technique. The human situation, affected as it is by original sin and by personal sin, can only be rectified by God's action: sin is an offense against God, and only God can reconcile us to himself.
In the divine plan of salvation, human beings have been saved by Jesus Christ who, as God and man, is the one mediator of redemption. In Christianity salvation is not an experience of self, a meditative and intuitive dwelling within oneself, but much more the forgiveness of sin, being lifted out of profound ambivalences in oneself and the calming of nature by the gift of communion with a loving God. The way to salvation is not found simply in a self-induced transformation of consciousness, but in a liberation from sin and its consequences which then leads us to struggle against sin in ourselves and in the society around us.
It necessarily moves us toward loving solidarity with our neighbour in need. New Age truth is about good vibrations, cosmic correspondences, harmony and ecstasy, in general pleasant experiences. It is a matter of finding one's own truth in accordance with the feel- good factor. Evaluating religion and ethical questions is obviously relative to one's own feelings and experiences. His followers are asked to open their whole lives to him and to his values, in other words to an objective set of requirements which are part of an objective reality ultimately knowable by all. The tendency to confuse psychology and spirituality makes it hard not to insist that many of the meditation techniques now used are not prayer.
They are often a good preparation for prayer, but no more, even if they lead to a more pleasant state of mind or bodily comfort. The experiences involved are genuinely intense, but to remain at this level is to remain alone, not yet in the presence of the other. The achievement of silence can confront us with emptiness, rather than the silence of contemplating the beloved. It is also true that techniques for going deeper into one's own soul are ultimately an appeal to one's own ability to reach the divine, or even to become divine: if they forget God's search for the human heart they are still not Christian prayer.
New Age practices are not really prayer, in that they are generally a question of introspection or fusion with cosmic energy, as opposed to the double orientation of Christian prayer, which involves introspection but is essentially also a meeting with God. In New Age there is no real concept of sin, but rather one of imperfect knowledge; what is needed is enlightenment, which can be reached through particular psycho-physical techniques. Go where your intelligence and intuition lead you. The most serious problem perceived in New Age thinking is alienation from the whole cosmos, rather than personal failure or sin.
The remedy is to become more and more immersed in the whole of being. In some New Age writings and practices, it is clear that one life is not enough, so there have to be reincarnations to allow people to realise their full potential. Without the knowledge Revelation gives of God we cannot recognize sin clearly and are tempted to explain it as merely a development flaw, a psychological weakness, a mistake, or the necessary consequence of an inadequate social structure, etc.
It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity Some New Age writers view suffering as self-imposed, or as bad karma, or at least as a failure to harness one's own resources. Others concentrate on methods of achieving success and wealth e. In New Age, reincarnation is often seen as a necessary element in spiritual growth, a stage in progressive spiritual evolution which began before we were born and will continue after we die.
In our present lives the experience of the death of other people provokes a healthy crisis. Both cosmic unity and reincarnation are irreconcilable with the Christian belief that a human person is a distinct being, who lives one life, for which he or she is fully responsible: this understanding of the person puts into question both responsibility and freedom.
The experience of this evil determined the incomparable extent of Christ's suffering, which became the price of the redemption The Redeemer suffered in place of man and for man. Every man has his own share in the redemption, Each one is also called to share in that suffering through which the redemption was accomplished. He is called to share in that suffering through which all human suffering has also been redeemed.
In bringing about the redemption through suffering, Christ has also raised human suffering to the level of the redemption. Much in New Age is unashamedly self-promotion, but some leading figures in the movement claim that it is unfair to judge the whole movement by a minority of selfish, irrational and narcissistic people, or to allow oneself to be dazzled by some of their more bizarre practices, which are a block to seeing in New Age a genuine spiritual search and spirituality.
Where there is true love, there has to be a different other person. Union is seen in Christianity as communion, unity as community. The New Age which is dawning will be peopled by perfect, androgynous beings who are totally in command of the cosmic laws of nature.
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In this scenario, Christianity has to be eliminated and give way to a global religion and a new world order. On the one hand, it is clear that many New Age practices seem to those involved in them not to raise doctrinal questions; but, at the same time, it is undeniable that these practices themselves communicate, even if only indirectly, a mentality which can influence thinking and inspire a very particular vision of reality.
Certainly New Age creates its own atmosphere, and it can be hard to distinguish between things which are innocuous and those which really need to be questioned. The Church's one foundation is Jesus Christ, her Lord. He is at the heart of every Christian action, and every Christian message. So the Church constantly returns to meet her Lord. The Gospels tell of many meetings with Jesus, from the shepherds in Bethlehem to the two thieves crucified with him, from the wise elders who listened to him in the Temple to the disciples walking miserably towards Emmaus.
One of the attractive elements of John's account of this meeting is that it takes the woman a while even to glimpse what Jesus means by the water 'of life', or 'living' water verse They move from hearing about Jesus to knowing him personally, then understanding the universal significance of his identity. This all happens because their minds, their hearts and more are engaged. The fact that the story takes place by a well is significant. This approach could yield a rich harvest in terms of people who may have been attracted to the water-carrier Aquarius but who are genuinely still seeking the truth.
It is important to acknowledge the sincerity of people searching for the truth; there is no question of deceit or of self-deception. It is also important to be patient, as any good educator knows. It is a matter of letting people react in their own way, at their own pace, and letting God do the rest. Guidance and sound formation are needed.
Christ or Aquarius? The Age of Aquarius is conceived as one which will replace the predominantly Christian Age of Pisces. New Age thinkers are acutely aware of this; some of them are convinced that the coming change is inevitable, while others are actively committed to assisting its arrival. Christians have only to think of the difference between the wise men from the East and King Herod to recognise the powerful effects of choice for or against Christ.
It must never be forgotten that many of the movements which have fed the New Age are explicitly anti-Christian. Their stance towards Christianity is not neutral, but neutralising: despite what is often said about openness to all religious standpoints, traditional Christianity is not sincerely regarded as an acceptable alternative. Fusion or confusion? New Age traditions consciously and deliberately blur real differences: between creator and creation, between humanity and nature, between religion and psychology, between subjective and objective reality.
The idealistic intention is always to overcome the scandal of division, but in New Age theory it is a question of the systematic fusion of elements which have generally been clearly distinguished in Western culture. It is not playing with words to say that New Age thrives on confusion.
The Christian tradition has always valued the role of reason in justifying faith and in understanding God, the world and the human person. While this is a positive insight, recalling the need for a balance involving all our faculties, it does not justify sidelining a faculty which is essential for a fully human life. Anything which promotes conceptual confusion or secrecy needs to be very carefully scrutinised.
It hides rather than reveals the ultimate nature of reality. It corresponds to the post-modern loss of confidence in the bold certainties of former times, which often involves taking refuge in irrationality. The challenge is to show how a healthy partnership between faith and reason enhances human life and encourages respect for creation. Create your own reality.
The widespread New Age conviction that one creates one's own reality is appealing, but illusory. It is crystallised in Jung's theory that the human being is a gateway from the outer world into an inner world of infinite dimensions, where each person is Abraxas, who gives birth to his own world or devours it. The star that shines in this infinite inner world is man's God and goal. The most poignant and problematic consequence of the acceptance of the idea that people create their own reality is the question of suffering and death: people with severe handicaps or incurable diseases feel cheated and demeaned when confronted by the suggestion that they have brought their misfortune upon themselves, or that their inability to change things points to a weakness in their approach to life.
This is far from being a purely academic issue: it has profound implications in the Church's pastoral approach to the difficult existential questions everyone faces. Our limitations are a fact of life, and part of being a creature. Death and bereavement present a challenge and an opportunity, because the temptation to take refuge in a westernised reworking of the notion of reincarnation is clear proof of people's fear of death and their desire to live forever.
Do we make the most of our opportunities to recall what is promised by God in the resurrection of Jesus Christ? How real is the faith in the resurrection of the body, which Christians proclaim every Sunday in the creed? The New Age idea that we are in some sense also gods is one which is very much in question here. The whole question depends, of course, on one's definition of reality. It is important constantly to focus on effective ways of speaking of transcendence.
The fundamental difficulty of all New Age thought is that this transcendence is strictly a self-transcendeence to be achieved within a closed universe. Pastoral resources. In Chapter 8 an indication is given regarding the principal documents of the Catholic Church in which can be found an evaluation of the ideas of New Age. First of all, it is worth saying once again that not everyone or everything in the broad sweep of New Age is linked to the theories of the movement in the same ways.
Likewise, the label itself is often misapplied or extended to phenomena which can be categorised in other ways. The term New Age has even been abused to demonise people and practices. It is essential to see whether phenomena linked to this movement, however loosely, reflect or conflict with a Christian vision of God, the human person and the world.
The mere use of the term New Age in itself means little, if anything. The relationship of the person, group, practice or commodity to the central tenets of Christianity is what counts. For example, there is a large number of pastoral centres, cultural centres and centres of spirituality. Ideally, these could also be used to address the confusion about New Age religiosity in a variety of creative ways, such as providing a forum for discussion and study.
It must unfortunately be admitted that there are too many cases where Catholic centres of spirituality are actively involved in diffusing New Age religiosity in the Church. This would of course have to be corrected, not only to stop the spread of confusion and error, but also so that they might be effective in promoting true Christian spirituality.
Catholic cultural centres, in particular, are not only teaching institutions but spaces for honest dialogue. These are precious resources, which ought to be shared generously in areas that are less well provided for. Encounters with these groups should be approached with care, and should always involve persons who are capable of both explaining Catholic faith and spirituality, and of reflecting critically on New Age thought and practice. It is extremely important to check the credentials of people, groups and institutions claiming to offer guidance and information on New Age.
This fits in with the New Age vision of moving into an age where the limited character of particular religions gives way to the universality of a new religion or spirituality. Genuine dialogue, on the other hand, will always respect diversity from the outset, and will never seek to blur distinctions in a fusion of all religious traditions. Those people who are invited to such groups need to look for the marks of genuine Christian spirituality , and to be wary if there is any sort of initiation ceremony. Such groups take advantage of a person's lack of theological or spiritual formation to lure them gradually into what may in fact be a form of false worship.
Christian prayer and the God of Jesus Christ will easily be recognised. There is no problem with learning how to meditate, but the object or content of the exercise clearly determines whether it relates to the God revealed by Jesus Christ, to some other revelation, or simply to the hidden depths of the self. The question of respect for creation is one which could also be approached creatively in Catholic schools. A great deal of what is proposed by the more radical elements of the ecological movement is difficult to reconcile with Catholic faith.
People's minds and hearts are already unusually open to reliable information on the Christian understanding of time and salvation history. To the pilgrims : The idea behind the word pilgrims is of someone who lives as a temporary resident in a foreign land. Pilgrims are sojourners and travelers, and pilgrims live in constant awareness of their true home. The early Christian writing The Epistle to Diognetus gives the idea of what pilgrims are. Every foreign land is their native land, and every native land a foreign land… they pass their days upon earth, but their citizenship is in heaven.
To the pilgrims of the Dispersion : Peter clearly wrote to Gentiles, Christians see 1 Peter , , and Yet he called them pilgrims of the Dispersion , a name that was applied to the Jews. He called them this because he saw the Christians of his day as sprinkled throughout the world as the Jewish people were in the Dispersion after the fall of Jerusalem when the Babylonians conquered Judah. Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia : These specific areas were places Christianity had extended in the first several decades after the beginning of the church. This was not written to any one congregation, but intentionally written to all Christians.
Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace be multiplied. Elect according to the foreknowledge : Peter first described his intended readers as elect. This means simply that they are chosen , chosen by God in a particular and unique sense. According to the foreknowledge of God : This describes the nature of their election. This foreknowledge includes prior knowledge of our response to the gospel, but is not solely dependent on it. In sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience : An essential result of election is sanctification and obedience.
While some would like to think that election has only to do with going to heaven or hell, Peter reminds us that it also touches earth. A claim to be among the elect is doubtful if there is no evidence of sanctification and obedience. And sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ : However, since all the elect fall short of perfect sanctification and obedience, there is cleansing from sin provided for them through the sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ.
There were three circumstances in the Old Testament where blood was sprinkled on people. The sprinkling of the blood of Jesus on us accomplishes the same things. First, a covenant is formed, then we are ordained as priests to Him, and finally we are cleansed from our corruption and sin. Each of these is ours through the work of Jesus on the cross. It is not detailed as a specific doctrine, but woven into the fabric of the New Testament.
Jesus has a Father , but not in the sense of being higher than He or the One who gave Him existence. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit have existed together throughout eternity and each is equally God. Father and Son are terms used to describe the relationship between these first two members of the Trinity. Grace to you and peace be multiplied : Peter brought a greeting that had become common among the Christians, combining elements from Greek culture Grace and Jewish culture peace.
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Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Only one who has devoutly contemplated the greatness of our salvation could utter such a magnificent paean of praise, one that prepares and encourages the suffering soul to steadfastly continue the spiritual battle.
All His goodness to us begins with mercy. As we are by nature, justice condemns us, holiness frowns upon us, power crushes us, truth confirms the threatening of the law, and wrath fulfils it. It is from the mercy of our God that all our hopes begin. Has begotten us again : The wording of begotten us again is different from born again John but the meaning is the same. To a living hope : We are born again to a living hope because we have eternal life in a Savior who has conquered death Himself. The hope lives because it is set upon an inheritance incorruptible that can never fade away because it is reserved in heaven.
This is a significant contrast to any inheritance on this earth. Other hopes fade like withering flowers. The hopes of the rich, the boasts of the proud, all these will die out as a candle when it flickers in the socket. The hope of the greatest monarch has been crushed before our eyes; he set up the standard of victory too soon, and has seen it trailed in the mire. There is no unwaning hope beneath the changeful moon: the only imperishable hope is that which climbs above the stars, and fixes itself upon the throne of God and the person of Jesus Christ.
All he can tell us is what it is not. What our inheritance actually is is something too great for him to describe. Our inheritance is like the inheritance of Aaron Numbers and the inheritance of the Psalmist Psalm , which is the gift of God Himself. Since God gives Himself to us now, our inheritance begins here and now. We cannot experience this inheritance unless we are born again.
Unregenerate man does not have the capacity to enjoy this inheritance.